Electric vehicle (EV) charging is becoming an everyday experience for millions of people in the UK and globally as the world steadily adopts electric mobility. While charging at home is much more convenient and cheaper than visiting a petrol station, it remains a new experience that can sometimes be daunting or frustrating.
EV charging apps streamline the charging experience by giving drivers control of their car’s charging at the touch of a button.
This guide explains exactly what EV charging apps are and how they can benefit drivers.
Whether you’re charging your EV at home or on the road, you will likely encounter a charging app at some point.
Charging apps come in different types with various features, but they all allow drivers to stay connected throughout the charging process and unlock real-time insights about charging behaviour.
Let’s have a look at the main types of charging apps below.
As the name suggests, home EV charging apps are used to control your home EV charging station and are often provided by your charger’s manufacturer.
Home EV charging apps unlock a range of insights into the charging process and allow you remotely control the charger with a tap on your phone.
For instance, many home EV charging apps enable you to start and stop the charging process remotely, schedule charging sessions, receive notifications on the charging session’s progress, and track electricity consumption in real time.
Of course, a home EV charging app’s functionalities aren’t necessarily clear cut – some chargers are capable of both home and public charging functionalities, such as a home EV charging app that also functions as a public station finder.
One of the main types of charging apps that people think of is a public charging app or public charging station finder. As the name suggests, this type of app usually consists of a map of charging points in a given area and information about charger availability, costs, speed, and more.
Mainstream mapping apps, like Apple or Google Maps, can also show charging stations around you, but they usually lack many important details that make them a less reliable option for planning journeys.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the features that characterise a public EV charging app.
One of the most important details you’ll want to know about a public charger is whether it is available for when you need it, especially if you're completing a long drive. A public charging app can show you in real-time if chargers are occupied, helping to avoid the disappointment of turning up at a busy charging station, and allowing you to plan alternatives.
Beyond availability, another important concern about a public charging station is whether it’s even working at all. Whether due to broken hardware or software problems, realising the charger you were planning to use is out of order is a frustrating experience. A charging app can help mitigate this by informing you of the charger’s status in advance, preventing unnecessary trips.
While EVs are usually much cheaper to charge than filling up the tank of a petrol-powered car, it still has a cost. EV charging prices vary significantly between charge point operators, with different margins added to the cost of electricity and sometimes entirely different tariffs.
A charging app provides transparency by letting you know prices in advance and allowing you to compare it to other nearby charging stations. That way, you can decide to charge where it’s more convenient and cost-effective rather than stopping at the first charger you see.
Beyond the cost of charging up your EV, how fast it will be charged up is also a critical consideration, especially when stopping for a quick top-up during a trip. Charging speed can vary significantly between a regular AC charging station and a DC fast charger, and not all public chargers (or cars) are capable of all speeds.
A charging app lets you view and often even filter chargers based on their power output or whether they are standard or fast chargers. This way, you can be sure the charger you’re going to will have the optimal speed for your needs.
While practical elements about a charger’s performance and cost are important, information about the charging experience and amenities can also be important. A charging app can provide details about a charger’s location and what additional services are offered – for example, restrooms, a café or a supermarket.
Many charging apps also let you view other drivers’ ratings and comments on a location, letting you know aspects about a charger that may not be obvious otherwise. For instance, you might find that a specific charger is often reported to be out of order, or learn about what condition they’re in and what amenities are available nearby.
You might not think of it as an app, but the software inside your EV is perhaps the most fundamental charging app. Your EV’s in-car charging software shares many of the features of public and home EV charging apps, including the ability to find and navigate to public charging stations and manage charging from within your vehicle.
Because it is built into your car, an in-car app often benefits from a direct data connection to your vehicle’s systems, allowing it to tailor recommendations based on real-time battery information. Beyond the built-in software, many EV manufacturers also offer companion smartphone apps to let you receive information and control charging remotely.
Before we dive into an EV charging app’s features and benefits, we first need to understand what it connects to. While EV charging stations come in many shapes and sizes, many people don’t realise that they can be much more than simple pieces of equipment used to plug in an EV.
Many modern chargers come with connectivity capabilities that unlock a new level of control and insights into the charging process, greatly enhancing the experience for drivers.
It’s no surprise, then, that globally, the number of connected charging points is projected to reach 7.9 million by 2025. But connected chargers are also gaining in prominence thanks to government regulations mandating them, for example, the smart charging regulations in the UK.
But what exactly does a connected charging station do, and how does this benefit you as a driver? And what about smart charging?
Alongside connected charging, you might also have heard the terms “smart” or “intelligent charging” be used when referring to EV chargers. While they sound like they could be interchangeable, they refer to slightly different things.
A connected charging station can connect to the internet and exchange real-time data between the charger and other products, for example, an EV charging app.
Smart charging, on the other hand, is an umbrella term that refers to a series of intelligent functionalities that streamline the charging process, such as dynamic load balancing, vehicle-to-home (V2H), or renewable energy integration.
In other words, a smart EV charger will always be connected, but a connected charging station doesn’t necessarily support smart features.
A connected EV charging station helps streamline and optimise the everyday experience for drivers by offering a clear, real-time picture of the process and unlocking actionable insights. But a connected charger can also improve the maintenance and troubleshooting process, even enabling remote servicing in some cases.
Linking a connected EV charging station to a charging app on your phone or tablet allows you to leverage the charger’s full potential. While there is a range of different charging apps, they often all share the same fundamental features, including the ability to monitor and control the charging session and customise its settings to your needs.
Like other internet-connected devices in our homes, a connected EV charger can benefit from updates to its software over time, ensuring bugs and privacy flaws are corrected and adding new features that improve the user experience.
In the long term, keeping your station up-to-date can guarantee optimal performance, making a connected charging station often more future-proof than a non-connected one.
Even when things don’t work as they should, a connected EV charging station has advantages. Thanks to its connectivity, it can provide real-time insight into the charger’s status and communicate important diagnostics information to service providers.
In many cases, this can eliminate the need for an in-person visit altogether, giving you immediate clarity about potential next steps. Even when an in-person visit remains necessary, remote troubleshooting can give the repairer an idea of the issue ahead of time, letting them come better prepared.
For charging stations capable of them, smart functionalities allow drivers to optimise their charging behaviour, ensuring it is as efficient, safe, and sustainable as possible. While smart chargers often cost more initially, they can often work out to be cheaper, in the long run, thanks to their ability to reduce day-to-day charging costs.
Charging apps come in many forms, with different features and functionalities. So how do you know what to look out for? We’ve compiled below some of the main factors you should pay attention to when choosing a charging app.
Perhaps most importantly, you’ll want to check that the charging app is compatible with the make and model of your EV and charging station. Many apps are only compatible with certain EVs and chargers, and there are even first-party apps that only support a specific brand’s car and charging station.
An incompatible app will be limited in its ability to control the charging process and may only provide basic information, missing out on many actionable insights.
If you want to use your home charging app to also manage your public charging sessions, it’s essential to check what payment options are offered to avoid an unpleasant surprise when trying to charge.
Depending on the app and public charging network, you might be able to link your bank account and set up a direct debit or receive a monthly bill for all your charging.
Some apps can even allow you to pay for charging without an account using your credit or debit card. While more flexible, it’s worth remembering that pay-as-you-go tariffs can often be higher than members’ ones, so creating an account can be worth it if you use public charging frequently.
If an app has public charging capabilities, it most likely has a built-in map or list of charging stations in an area. In turn, it uses your phone’s location services to show how far chargers are and guide you to a specific charger. To ensure you benefit from all its functionalities, it’s worth checking if location services are turned on and if you’ve allowed the app to access your position.
Many apps can keep a record of past charging sessions, including the duration, amount of energy used, and cost of each session. Beyond allowing you to track your charging behaviour, these insights can also simplify budgeting, allowing you to easily notice trends and patterns in your EV charging.
Assuming you’ve enabled notifications on your phone, some charging apps can send you alerts about your charging session, such as when your car is fully charged or if there is an error with your charging session.
Generally, you can adjust the app’s settings to customise the notifications you receive, ensuring you only get relevant and useful updates.
Beyond allowing you to control your EV’s charging process remotely with the tap of a button, an EV charging app also unlocks a series of insights and data. But what information does it give you, and how can you benefit from it?
Many people don’t realise just how energy-intensive EV charging is, with a dedicated home charger drawing anywhere from 7.4 to 22 kilowatts (kW). For context, this is about 7 to 14 times as much as a typical dishwasher.
As such, it might not be a surprise that EV charging can overwhelm your home’s electrical supply and trip your breakers if not managed properly. A charging app can help combat this by giving you real-time visibility into your energy consumption, allowing you to optimise the times when you charge your EV.
While your EV still uses the same amount of energy regardless of when you’re charging it, electricity prices can vary considerably depending on the time of day. This is called off-peak pricing, where utility companies offer cheaper tariffs during low-demand periods, for example at night.
By viewing the cost of your electricity consumption, an EV charging app can help you compare peak and off-peak prices, allowing you to shift your charging to times with cheaper electricity, if convenient.
Beyond tracking energy use and costs for a single station or user, some apps offer you the ability to collect insights and data for multiple users or across different charging stations. Crucially, while all the information is centralised, these apps still let you view individual consumption and costs, ensuring energy use is accurately allocated to specific users.
With so many different EV charging apps out there, you might wonder, which one is the best? As is often the case, there is no one single best charging app, and the most optimal one for you depends on your specific needs and preferences.
So, how can you decide what makes an EV charging app good for you? While apps and functionalities vary greatly, let’s take a look below at the 6 most popular features EV charging apps tend to have.
A charging app also keeps you up to date on the charging’s progress with status alerts and notifications. This way, you’ll know exactly when your EV is done charging, and you’re ready to leave. Alters can also help troubleshoot any problems early, for example by letting you know that charging stopped unexpectedly and giving you the chance to check out the issue.
An EV charging app unlocks a range of data and insights into electricity consumption and charging behaviour. By understanding how much energy you’re using in real-time (and how much it’s costing you), you can take concrete steps and adapt your energy use.
Leveraging the data and insights from your charging station can help you optimise your charging behaviour to ensure your car is charged as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. For instance, you can set your EV to only start charging after a certain hour at night to take advantage of cheaper off-peak electricity prices or ensure your home’s electrical circuit won’t be overloaded.
This way, you can plug in your car as soon as you get home in the evening and wake up to a fully charged battery in the morning without any direct input needed from you. Of course, if your plans change and you need to leave earlier than expected, a charging app can override the schedule with the touch of a button and start charging your car immediately.
For many drivers, environmental concerns are a key incentive for buying an EV. But electric cars are only as sustainable as the electricity that powers them – so ensuring that sustainable energy is used for charging an EV is an important consideration.
This is even more true if you generate your own renewable electricity, for example, using solar panels on your roof, as you can unlock significant savings by using your own energy to charge your EV. A charging app can offer features to help manage sustainable energy, for instance, by choosing a preferred energy source and scheduling charging when your home’s electricity output is the highest.
While not every EV charging app has both public and home charging functionality, many allow you to find nearby charging stations on the go, highlighting important information such as the number of chargers, their availability, speed, and costs, to name a few.
Just like you can have multiple friends or family members using your Netflix account, you might have multiple people using your EV charging station. Adding and managing users is an important feature of EV charging apps, making it easy to track energy consumption and charging behaviour for each individual user.
This can also be a useful feature if you own more than one EV charging station, with many charging apps letting you manage them from one place. Beyond eliminating the need for multiple apps, this can also centralise data and insights to provide a comprehensive overview across chargers.
As connected EV chargers become the norm, charging apps are a vital way for drivers to manage and stay up-to-date about their car’s charging. Whether at home to control your home charger or on the go to find public charging stations, charging apps are at the centre of the charging experience.
If you’re new to electric mobility, you might have many more questions about EV charging as a whole. Check out our complete EV charging guide to answer all your questions. If you’re thinking of installing a charging station at home, take a look at our smart EV charging guide for an overview of everything you need to know about smart and connected charging.
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